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Charles Rosenberg

landowner, businessman, and state legislator, was born enslaved in Dallas County Alabama, to parents named Sarah and Pete, who had been born in South Carolina. David, like his parents, was the property of a family named Abner. There is some dispute as to his birth date—some giving 1826 and others 1838—but the most reliable date appears to be December 1820, as suggested by a letter from his youngest daughter. It is not known when David took the Abner surname for himself, a common but by no means universal practice for formerly enslaved persons. He was sent to Texas in 1843, driving a covered wagon for the newly married daughter (Thelma) of the man who held title to him.

Her father considered his new son in law unreliable and entrusted David to get his daughter safely to her new home and manage ...

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From 1841 to 1847 Frederick Douglass 1818 1895 who had escaped bondage in 1838 lectured on the evils of slavery as part of his work with William Lloyd Garrison s American Anti Slavery Society Douglass eventually differed with Garrison s revolutionary and arguably condescending tactics preferring instead a practical approach that preserved the core values of the republic The speech excerpted below delivered in October 1841 in Lynn Massachusetts contains the seeds of that conflict within the abolitionist movement Douglass states bluntly his concerns that Northerners are out of touch with the slaves experiences and that while their work to end slavery is admirable racism remains a problem even among the most determined abolitionists As an example he points out the irony of the Southern laws that prohibited teaching a slave to read While many Northerners believed that blacks were not smart enough to gain anything from education he states ...

Article

Rob Fink

As African Americans fought racial prejudice in the United States following the Civil War, some black leaders proposed a strategy of accommodation. The idea of accommodation called for African Americans to work with whites and accept some discrimination in an effort to achieve economic success and physical security. The idea proved controversial: many black leaders opposed accommodation as counterproductive.

Booker T. Washington served as the champion of accommodation. Born a slave in 1856 Washington received a degree from the Hampton Institute before being invited to head up the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama At Tuskegee Washington used industrial education to promote accommodation by African Americans Because of his background Washington recognized the difficulties faced by southern blacks in their quest for civil rights He knew firsthand that during the 1860s and 1870s whites in the South found it hard to accept African Americans as free No one argued against the ...

Article

Michael Bieze

artist, was born in Colquitt County, Georgia, son of John Henry Adams, a former slave and preacher in the Methodist Church, and Mittie Rouse. Many questions surround Adams's early life. While he reported in an Atlanta Constitution article (23 June 1902) that he came from a humble background, his father served parishes throughout Georgia. According to the History of the American Negro and His Institutions (1917), Adams Sr. was a man of accomplishment, leading black Georgians in a colony in Liberia for two years and receiving two honorary doctorates, from Bethany College and Morris Brown University. Educated in Atlanta schools, Adams claimed in the Atlanta Constitution article to have traveled to Philadelphia in the late 1890s to take art classes at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry (later Drexel University). Drexel, established in 1891 opened its doors to a diverse student ...

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Charles Henry Langston (1817–1892) was the first African American enrolled at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the state of Ohio. Langston used his experience at the school to become a prominent member of the movement, helping to organize the 1848 Colored National Convention in Cleveland, working to promote the antislavery newspaper the North Star, and serving as the principal of a school for African Americans in Columbus. Perhaps his most famous act, however, was the role he played in helping the fugitive slave John Price escape to Canada after he had been arrested by slave catchers, an incident that became known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Langston was one of two rescuers who were charged with violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But thanks to his eloquent speech delivered in Cleveland on 12 May 1859, the judge reduced the sentence to twenty days.

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A former slave and soldier identified as Dr Harris delivered the following speech before the Congregational and Presbyterian Anti Slavery Society in Francestown New Hampshire Though little is known about his personal life Harris was apparently one of nearly ninety blacks recruited to fight with the First Rhode Island Regiment during the Revolutionary War Harris appears to mention here the Battle of Rhode Island in which his segregated unit withstood several British advances as well as volleys from warships of the Royal Navy He also mentions the Dorr War 1841 1842 an insurrection that the state s black soldiers helped to quell several months earlier Understandably Harris connects the service of black veterans with the greater cause of emancipation If his speech seems optimistic for one delivered in 1842 it may be because Rhode Island was far ahead of most states regarding civil rights Slavery was formally abolished around this ...

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Though he devoted his adult life to the abolitionist cause—harboring fugitive slaves, participating in political conventions, calling for boycotts on slave-produced goods—Henry Highland Garnet (1815–1882) gained notoriety for an 1843 speech reproduced below. At the National Negro Convention held in Buffalo, New York, the clergyman issued a “Call to Rebellion,” directly rebuking the more measured and pragmatic approach favored by Frederick Douglass (1818–1895). Douglass was quick to criticize the tone of the speech, and the convention narrowly defeated Garnet’s resolution, but the overall message gained traction within the abolitionist movement, influencing more militant leaders such as John Brown (1800–1859).

Article

John William Templeton

The black businessmen William Alexander Leidesdorff and Andres Pico were both born in 1810 with something the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and millions of other Africans in the Western Hemisphere could not claim: their fathers' names. Leidesdorff took that birthright from the Virgin Islands to the far ends of what was to be the United States: Hawaii and California. Pico was able to rise to the highest political and military offices in Alta California because members of his family had already served as military commanders and established their own ranches along the Pacific coast.

West was the direction of freedom for thousands of African Americans who labored long and hard in the abolition movement with Douglass or who simply sought to avoid the segregation prevalent within the boundaries of the United States They found vast areas where blacks were not only welcomed but also were in command of physical political military ...

Article

L. Diane Barnes

Founded in December 1816, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was the first national organization to take on the problem of slavery in the United States. The ACS proposed an expatriation scheme to rid the nation of slavery and of free African Americans. The prominent founders Charles Fenton Mercer, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and others secured federal funding and in 1822 founded the colony of Liberia on Africa's west coast as the destination for America's blacks.

Even before the founding of the ACS, the colonization of African Americans was an issue that divided both whites and blacks. Some African Americans supported colonization, arguing that free blacks would never be fully included in the white-dominated society of the United States. Others argued just as forcibly that blacks were entitled to full rights as American citizens and should remain to fight on behalf of their race.

The ACS drew ...

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In the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, Secretary of War Edward Stanton established the American Freedmen’s Inquiry Commission in order to analyze the status of the slaves who would eventually be freed by the advancing Union forces. To gather information, the commission interviewed numerous freed men and women. Lacking modern communications, it is clear that the commission was left to ask questions based on sheer ignorance, common stereotypes, and outright superstition, as evidenced by the queries in the interview with a former slave from South Carolina below.

Article

Diane L. Barnes

The American Missionary Association formed in 1846 in Albany, New York, as an alliance of Christian abolitionists who chose not to associate with the existing missionary agencies operated by various Protestant denominations. The spark for the formation of the association dates to the plight of the Amistad captives in 1839. This group of Africans enslaved in violation of international law successfully revolted against their captors aboard a Spanish slave ship—but ended up on trial in the United States when the ship drifted into a harbor on Long Island, New York. The well-publicized trial led many northern abolitionists to push mainstream missionary organizations, including the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, to assist the Amistad voyagers in their return to Africa but the organizations refused The frustrations of these Christian abolitionists led to the formation of three groups the Union Missionary Society the Western Evangelical Mission Society and ...

Article

Susan Bragg

tailor, store owner, and newspaper editor, was born in Pennsylvania, to parents whose names and occupations are now unknown. Little is known about Anderson's early life except that he was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, ultimately gaining appointment as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for the State of Pennsylvania. Anderson migrated west in the waning days of the California gold rush and in 1854 set up a tailor shop and clothing store in San Francisco. There he plunged into the city's small but energetic black community, a community linked by both the mining economy and by shared protest against injustices in the new state of California.

Anderson soon became a regular contributor to political discussions at the recently organized Atheneum Institute, a reading room and cultural center for black Californians. In January 1855 he and other prominent African Americans joined together to call ...

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If James Buchanan was precisely the wrong chief executive to hold office immediately before the Civil War, Andrew Johnson was almost certainly the wrong man to hold office immediately after the war. When an assassin's bullet felled Abraham Lincoln on 14 April 1865, his vice president, Johnson, ascended to the Oval Office and immediately came into conflict with Radical Republicans in Congress, eager to press forward their plan for a harshly retributive Reconstruction. Such conflicts were perhaps preordained. Johnson had been added to Lincoln's ticket in a vain attempt to placate those Southern states that made no bones about their intense dislike for Lincoln and his strong unionist policies. Johnson's avowedly pro-Confederate, racist ideologies frequently ran afoul of even moderates in Congress.

Any hope of political reconciliation thin though it may have been was dispelled on 27 March 1866 when Johnson vetoed that year s landmark civil rights legislation Though ...

Article

Lance Johnson

slave and soldier of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, was born in Guinea, Africa, to unknown parents. At age four, he was taken from his family and shipped along the Middle Passage to America, to be sold into slavery. He landed in Connecticut's Branford Harbor, a popular center of the slave trade because of its commercial ties to the West Indies. He was purchased by a man named Titus Bishop, a North Branford farmer, for forty pounds. It was Bishop who gave him the name “Gad.” Despite Branford's ties to slavery, there were few other slaves living in the town. The total population of blacks, slaves or free, numbered close to fifty until after the year 1800.

In 1775 as the Revolutionary War was just beginning Bishop gave Asher a proposition If Asher would serve in Bishop s place in the Continental Army the former would ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

The period in American history known as Reconstruction (1865–1877) gave emancipated slaves an unprecedented opportunity to participate in American society. Opportunities were opened in education, race relations, public facilities, and employment. Perhaps most important, African American men were given the right to vote and hold public office. By 1877, during the period referred to as Redemption, Southern whites began to wipe away many of these newfound freedoms, including the right to vote. By 1895, thirty-two years after emancipation, African Americans faced the virtual elimination of their freedoms and new challenges in their struggle for justice and equality.

In this context, Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), addressed the Atlanta exposition in 1895 Formally known as the Cotton States and International Exposition the exhibit provided Washington with the opportunity to address one of the most urgent issues facing ...

Article

The turning point of Booker T. Washington's tenure as African American leader was his address to the Cotton States and International Exposition at Atlanta in 1895. Before the address, referred to as “The Atlanta Compromise Address” or “The Atlanta Exposition Address,” Washington was the head of the Tuskegee Institute in Atlanta;afterward, he was the acknowledged leader of the African American people.

Washington s address essentially ratified the status quo in southern race relations which had been on a decline since Reconstruction In the speech he called for African Americans to work for their salvation through economic advancement and for southern whites to help them on this path To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man who is their next neighbor I would say cast down your bucket ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a teacher who opened the public schools of Philadelphia to children of color, and was the city's first school principal of African descent, was born Cordelia A. Jennings in New York City, the oldest child of a Scottish father, whose first name has not been published, but is recalled by descendants as William, and Mary McFarland Jennings, a school teacher born in Virginia.

In 1850, at the age of seven, Jennings was living in Philadelphia with her mother, sister Caroline, brother William, and brother Mifflin, and an older person named Annie Meda in a racially mixed neighborhood populated by shoemakers turners and carvers of known African descent as well as cooks and blacksmiths listed as white in the federal census Since Mifflin the youngest child was two years old the family had evidently lost their husband and father only recently Mifflin was also the only child ...

Article

M. Cookie E. Newsom

dentist, was born a slave in the Panthersville District of Dekalb County, Georgia. His mother (name unknown) was a slave, and his father, J. D. Badger was a white dentist and also his master Roderick had several brothers including Robert and Ralph all of whom had the same white father but different mothers In many ways his life story can be seen as an example of the complex relationships between the races in the antebellum and postbellum South where the black and white societies were supposed to be separate but where mixed race children were common growing ever more numerous in the decade leading up to the Civil War As the son of his owner Badger enjoyed the privileges associated with that status including his eventual freedom and prosperity However his status as a mulatto and as a professional man did not protect him from many of the ...

Article

Kane Cross

was possibly born in Connecticut, but other than that he was born into slavery, nothing is known about his parents or his early years. Baker enlisted to fight in the Revolutionary War on 24 May 1777, in the town of New Haven. His name appears as both Bristol and Brister in multiple documents, presumably due to his being a slave before enlisting in the army. His discharge papers list the name as Brister.

Baker served during the years 1777–1783 until he was discharged in 1783; his discharge letter was signed and approved by General George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army, and does not indicate that he was a black soldier. It seems Connecticut recruiters had a difficult time bringing in soldiers, because by March 1777 Brigadier General Samuel Parsons reported that of the nine Connecticut regiments only two had 250 men far short of the ...

Article

Delano Greenidge-Copprue

Although it was by and large a slave city, Baltimore boasted a large free black population, which included Frederick Douglass's wife, Anna Murray, who worked for a postman on the same street where Douglass lived with the Auld family. In the first half of the nineteenth century the free black population of Baltimore increased 3,000 percent, as African Americans were moving to many urban locations for better opportunities and more freedom.

Indeed, while Baltimore served as a bastion of freedom for many African Americans in the antebellum period, it was a city surrounded by slavery. To the south of Baltimore, in Prince George's County, where tobacco was a chief crop, the population in 1790 consisted of 11,176 slaves, or 52 percent of the county's population; the proportion changed little before 1850 Meanwhile north and west of Baltimore the numbers of both free and enslaved African Americans steadily ...